Penrose Physical Therapy Answers: Does Your Nighttime Routine Cause Neck Pain?

Submitted by Jennifer Penrose for Penrose & Associates Phyiscal Therapy

When patients ask me “why do I get neck pain?” it can sometimes be difficult to answer. Not because I don’t know how to ease neck pain, but because I don’t know their personal circumstances. What I can suggest however, is that it could be your nighttime routine that is causing your neck pain. Why, you ask? Let me explain…

Now this is something that many people do at nighttime and probably don’t really think of. Sleeping with 2 pillows can cause havoc for your neck if they don’t support your head correctly. If you have 2 pillows they can sometimes prop your head upwards, tilting your head forwards. By doing this, your head is in an unusual position and will continue to be for roughly 8 hours with your neck will feeling the pressure. Because your head isn’t supported correctly, your neck takes the role of support whilst you sleep. That’s a lot of pressure for your neck for 8 hours! A general rule I have is to sleep with one pillow. It may feel a little weird at first (and by weird I mean flat), but once you get used to it, it will make a great difference. If you only have one pillow, it will support your head, while allowing it to stay in line with the body, giving your neck a well deserved rest!
Other things that you are probably doing that’s not helping your neck are; reading, checking emails or playing on your phone before bed. As you unwind in bed doing any of the above, your head is tilted. Because your head is tilted and is not supported by your shoulders, your neck compensates for them. To do this, your neck tenses it’s muscles to keep your head where it is. If you think about it, if your neck DIDN’T tense those muscles, your head would just fall forward! So because your muscles are tensed, your body is in an unusual position. If you read, check emails or play on your phone for say about 1 hour each night, then is it any wonder that your neck is hurting?  Try to remember to keep your ears over your shoulders and that will help limit your forward head posture and limit the work required by your neck muscles.
But the pain doesn’t stop there…Now imagine going to sleep on 2 pillows, as well as reading for about an hour or so. By doing this, you can see that you may be causing your neck to already be in pain before your head hits the pillow!
So there you have it! Now you understand why your neck pain occurs. As a result of knowing how easily your neck muscles can be tensed, you should be able to adjust your lifestyle accordingly! Even if it means less reading time before bed and using one supportive pillow for your head, you will be making a difference and will be easing any neck pain that may be caused at night.
It is important to make sure your pillow is not too hard and it fits correctly when you sleep.  If you wake up in pain it could be that your pillow is not supporting you enough or is not soft enough.  We have a custom pillow Pillowise that we prescribe (it’s only sold in providers’ offices) as we have to take 3 different neck and across the shoulder measurements to make sure we get the right fit for you.  There is a 30 day guarantee which is peace of mind for those of you on the hunt for the perfect pillow!  If you would like to know more please email us at or call us at 360-456-1444.
Penrose Physical Therapy Pillowise
Your pillow may be causing your neck pain woes. Photo courtesy: Penrose & Associates Phyiscal Therapy / Pillowise
Notice the pillow keeps your neck in a supportive but not bent or cocked sideways position.  You can learn more on the Pillowise website. Call us if you would like to have pillow measurements done. We are also offering a 30 minute neck pain assessment at 75 percent off for $25! Mention the ThurstonTalk article!


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